Buckle up, people because this is one helluva post. Intermittent fasting is not a new concept but has been a topic of more and more conversations in and out of the fitness space. I did a quick 101 on intermittent fasting a while back if you haven’t already done so take a quick read here before you go any further.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is NOT the secret sauce to weight loss. But it can be attributed to success in changing your body because it’s a great way to manage your caloric intake. Additionally, it simplifies your life by taking some guesswork out of when to eat – if you’re not in your eating window, you’re not eating. Simple as that.
Okay, okay. Let’s get into this. The below is an overview of the what, why, and how of Intermittent Fasting as it relates to WEIGHT LOSS.
WHAT is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a lifestyle that cycles between periods of eating (or feeding) and fasting. The focus of IF isn’t what you consume but when you eat. It’s NOT a diet, there are no restricted foods, and it’s undoubtedly NOT caloric deprivation (calculate your daily caloric needs here). Intermittent fasting cycles include 10, 12, or 16-hour fasts but can vary for your individual needs and goals. I’ll caveat that some people who practice IF will incorporate a 24-hour fast into their schedule, and I’ll be excluding that kind of fast from the below.
The following speaks of a 24-hour period that includes both a fast and feed.
To be clear, when you fast, you are NOT consuming calories. None. Nada. Zilch. You’re drinking water to stay hydrated, it’s crucial to stay hydrated in general but especially when practicing IF. Herbal tea or black coffee is also acceptable. When you feed, you ARE consuming all of your calories for the day in your desired feeding window.
There is nothing magical about intermittent fasting, and by incorporating it into your lifestyle, you’re not guaranteed weight loss. The “magic” therein lies mostly in helping your diet adherence because it places a guardrail for WHEN you consume your calories.
Think about it – if you have 1200 calories to eat, and you start eating at 6 AM, it can be overwhelming to think fo spreading those calories across 24 hours. BUT if you start eating at 6 AM and know you’ll be done consuming your food within 8-12 hours, you’re less overwhelmed. It’s all mental.
HOW do you Implement an Intermittent Fasting program?
IF seems like this complicated method, but it’s not, hence the ability to simplify your lifestyle. There’s a window of time where you eat and then anything outside of that you’re not eating. It’s black and white. Either you’re eating, or you’re not.
Before you do anything, you have to establish your feeding window.
If you’ve never fasted before, I do not recommend an 8-hour feeding window – it’s aggressive. Instead, start with a 12-hour window for a week, progress to a 10-hour window for a week, and work your way down to an 8-hour feeding window. IF is flexible in the sense that you can choose your feeding window, but to be successful, you need at least 12 hours between your last meal of the day and your first meal of the following day. I’ve been fasting for over two years and have found that a feed window for 8-hours followed by a 16-hour fast window is my sweet spot.
WHEN you’re establishing your feed window here are a few things to consider:
- When you work out, especially if you’re the type of person that needs to eat directly before or after. Your pre and post-workout meals COUNT and will break your fast.*
- Your work schedule, when you’ll be available to eat? Can you eat whenever you want? Or do you have to plan your meals around a break schedule?
- Needs of friends or family. If eating a meal with your family is important to you, make sure to build it into your feed cycle.
- Sleep! IMO the best way to fast is to do it while you sleep. WINK.
*I get this question ALL the time, “I’m practicing IF but struggle to work out in the morning with our pre/post-workout fuel.” Here is my response:
Intermittent Fasting has different effects on the body depending on YOUR goals, which can range from adherence to insulin production. If you are the former and are ONLY looking to implement a fasting protocol to help you manage your caloric deficit, you can go outside of your window. NOTHING will happen. If you HAVE to eat after your workout, then fahking eat. Save your next meal, and the rest of your calories for your fasting window. There is NO need to get so technical if you’re only looking to maintain your deficit. Do you know? If you’re looking to manage insulin or other chemical or hormone production, that’s a different story. But if weight loss is what you’re after – relax.
WHY Should you Intermittent Fast?
It can be helpful to have some “rules” if your deficit is a challenge. You either eat, or you don’t depend on the time of day. It’s a significant change of pace for people who pressured to eat during our societal norms (breakfast in the morning, lunch in the afternoon, and dinner in the evening) or don’t like to eat a handful of small meals per day.
WHEN do you Fast or Feed?
Again, if you’re practicing fasting for weight loss, it doesn’t matter, which is great news. However, consistency is key to give mindset and your body time to adapt. It helps to ease into your fast cycles starting at 12, working to 10-hours, then 8-hours at a time. You have to decide on your period – do what makes sense for your schedule.
WHO Should Consider Intermittent Fasting?
Literally – anyone! I found it helpful when I worked in advertising full time. If you’re traveling around the clock, entertaining clients, chained to a craft service table, and have very little time to exercise, IF can be really helpful. I stopped fasting when I was pregnant with my son, and haven’t found my way back to it. I will say, the better my relationship with food and my body, the less of a need I feel to revisit this protocol. Take that for whatever you will.
Our society revolves around meals and eating. Society dictates our eating schedule, and honestly, the hardest part about starting an IF lifestyle is breaking through those societal norms. Don’t feel pressured to eat. IF is a lifestyle change that will take some time for acclimation, mentally, physically, and emotionally. But I would be shocked if you didn’t feel better every day. Give it a try, and let me know how you do.
You can take away the following from this post on Intermittent Fasting as it relates to WEIGHT LOSS:
- Fasting is a great way to practice managing hunger and maintaining adherence.
- Regular fasting isn’t objectively better for losing body fat.
- A caloric deficit is still required for weight loss, regular fasting may make it easier to maintain a larger caloric deficit – if it works for YOU.
- Intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone and that’s okay.